Saturday night the Hershey Bears leap frogged the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the standings with a high-scoring 5-4 victory. While Giant Center has been an intimidating building for Bears’ opposition of late, Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Township does not have a much kinder reputation.
Sunday the Chocolate and White concluded a home-and-home stretch against their I-81 rivals, and escaped victoriously for the first time this season in the W-B. Ryan Potulny scored a third period game-winning goal en route to a 3-1 win over the Penguins, finishing off a perfect six point weekend sweep for Hershey.
It was expected to be a tough, defensive battle all game a night after the Penguins’ defense was broken down and picked to shreds. During the first frame, Wilkes-Barre used an effective neutral zone trap which disrupted Hershey’s breakout attack, leading to five icings.
Overall, the climax of the opening 40 minutes was arguably a faceoff win by Joel Rechlicz in the second period. It has been great to watch Rechlicz the last several weeks develop his game and become more of a multi-dimensional leader.
In the past he has traditionally led in the locker room with his high spirits and on the ice by using his iron fists to pump adrenaline into his teammates. But recently we are seeing more dimensions being added into Rechlicz’s play. He is beginning forechecks well, occasionally stands in front of the net when possessing in the offensive end, and apparently now he is winning face offs. Great to see a guy who was typically known as just an enforcer take strides in the right direction as a player.
The match remained scoreless into the third period, until both clubs erupted for a combined four goals in 7:41. Jeff Taffe opened the scoring with 10:55 remaining after redirecting a Casey Wellman shot from the left circle.
Ryan Potulny doubled the Bears’ lead with 7:08 left after being left all alone on the back door. Both Dustin Gazley and Dane Byers extended personal point streaks by earning the helpers on the insurance, and eventual game-winning goal.
As Wilkes-Barre showcased the previous night at Giant Center, they are a team with everlasting fight. Brian Gibbons walked in all alone on David Leggio after a steal for a shorthanded tally with 4:03 left. But the Bears displayed good character and responded only 49 seconds later to replenish their two goal lead and round out the game’s total scoring. Peter LeBlanc finished a tic-tac-toe passing play and scored into a wide-open net to secure the victory.
With the back-to-back wins over the Penguins, Hershey is now in soul possession of fourth place in the Eastern Conference and second place in the East Division. The bitter rivals only have one more game against each other remaining on the 2013-14 regular season schedule. That game is scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 in Wilkes-Barre.